Skip to main content
7:30 pm
♪ won't you kindly ♪ be aware ♪ girl can't help it ♪ girl can't help it ♪ if the movies are a kind of pop mythology, then it's true that mythology, all mythology, basically, is a kind of heavenly mirror of what's going on in society. chapter three. "the repressed urge in the middle-aged male," "its roots and its consequences." (champagne popping and yelling) in the 1950's, psychoanalysis washed over popular culture. there was an obsession with psychoanalysis, and with the meaning of psychoanalysis. psychoanalysis taught us that under the surface of life, particularly domestic life, lay a whole set of unruly, chaotic, dark feelings, tension and dark, dirty little secrets.
7:31 pm
and now at the same time, billy wilder is making movies. and i think this is important in terms of staying power. (peter bogdonavich) i think, certainly, pictures in the 50's and 60's are satirical examinations of the various archetypes. look how she moves! that's just like jell-o on springs. must have some sort of built-in motor or something. i tell you, it's a whole different sex! wilder's "some like it hot" may be the most important romantic comedy of the 50's. it was the most commercially successful, but it was also the sharpest in the way that it dealt with the way men and women treat each other. have you tried american girls? why? was that anything? thanks just the same. you should see a doctor, a good doctor. oh, i have.
7:32 pm
i spent six months in vienna with professor freud, flat on my back. then, with the mayo brothers, injections, hypnosis, ah, mineral baths. (peter bogdonavich) tony curtis is doing cary grant. marilyn is doing an extreme version of marilyn. and jack lemmon's doing a woman. i mean, it, it's off into a kind of farce. (music playing) (ed sikov) oftentimes, drag comedy begins and ends with the image of a man in a woman's dress. this representation moves into something a lot deeper. osgood fielding the third. cinderella the second. bye-bye.
7:33 pm
(ed sikov) they end up getting harassed. you don't get off that easy! (ed sikov) they get pinched. all right, driver, once around the park, slowly, and keep your eyes on the road. (ed sikov) and it teaches them something. none of that, sugar. no guy's worth it. (ed sikov) and it makes them more human. billy wilder was pushing the limits of the code. but his sympathy is really with the decadent characters. (tango music playing) ole! he got away with that because his movies were so much fun. (susan seidelman) they worked on two different levels: you could laugh at all the characters' misadventures, for ten years i've been living with a saxophone player! (susan seidelman) but when you really thought about what the ending said, it really was very bold. i can never have children! we can adopt some. you don't understand, osgood!
7:34 pm
i'm a man. well... nobody's perfect. "nobody's perfect" is the greatest gay joke in the american cinema. it's funny because it's true. what we see in this film is that nobody is purely male, nobody is purely female; these ideals don't work. nobody's perfect, nobody's like that. what is this strange animal thing you have? it bothers me. it's bothered me since the first time i saw you. and it'll bother me always. from here to eternity. you must fight it, elaine. you must be strong. you must remember i belong to another. richard! (peter bogdonavich) it had a lot to do with the basic lie
7:35 pm
at the heart of the society, splitting women between purity and the carnal urge. richard! in the 30's, the women were both; they could be w---- and nun in one. that tended to split apart in the 50's and into the 60's, where it really had to be kind of one or the other. it's too wicked. the pattern of your behavior is completely obvious. you pushed the plant down because you wanted to kill me. (peter bogdonavich) there seems to be a lot of misanthropy that comes into play in the 50's. could it possibly be because you... love me? (peter bogdonavich) it's not very romantic. there's not as much affection for people. surely you wouldn't mind. (ed sikov) wilder plays with psychoanalysis. he understands that love is not only a lofty feeling, it's also motivated by base sexual desire.
7:36 pm
there's nothing to be ashamed of. under this thin veneer of civilization, we're all savages. man... woman... hopelessly enmeshed. we're all on a great toboggan, we can't stop it, we can't steer it, it's too late to run! the beguine has begun! what are we going to do? (50's music playing) (peter bogdonavich) the 50's were the last period with really strong female stars. the women lost power tremendously in the 50's, and in the 60's tended to disappear. and then came the 60's, and love was, "let's love everybody! we'll have, we'll all love, we'll have love-ins!" and romance was hippies meeting hippies and all those kind of stories. (door shuts and locks) oh, god! let me out.
7:37 pm
don't be nervous. (tom schatz) by far the most popular film in the late 1960's was "the graduate." i'm available to you -- oh, my c-----! (tom schatz) our notion of monogamy, of sexual identities, particularly women's roles but men's roles as well, are being redefined. let me out. (tom schatz) and it's a very curious film in terms of whether we read that thing as a comedy or a melodrama. oh, j----, that's him. compared to the 30's, there's much more explicit sexual innuendoes -- they're not even innuendoes, they're... endoes. ("wipeout" theme playing)
7:38 pm
an effect of explicit sexuality has been somewhat negative for romantic comedy. i am not a fan of censorship; however, when constraints are placed on art, artists can find a way of working within constraints, and various layers of meaning erupt out of it. when you bring the subtext of sexuality into the open, when you make that text, where do you go? perhaps it was because the weight of the issues in the feminist movement and the sexual revolution, we don't seem to find as much humor in all of that. well, hollywood responded to the women's movement by ignoring it. (molly haskell) in the late 60's to early 70's, when the movement peaked, women virtually disappeared from the cinema. where am i gonna get gravy at 8:00? i don't know, i thought it comes when you cook the meat. (narrator) in the late 1960's and 70's, women's roles in pictures diminished markedly, while their position in society appeared to improve. you didn't even know where this kitchen was 'til i came here and showed it to you!
7:39 pm
listen, you want to talk to me, buddy, put down that spoon. spoon! ha, ha, ha! you dumb ignoramus, that is a ladle! you did not know that's a ladle. (narrator) the new woman had become too hot to handle, and it would be years before romantic comedies returned. i can't believe i'm arguing with him over gravy. they're here. the tension between the sexes, the confusion of sexual roles, is so great, it's like it's no laughing matter. there are no comedies because nobody's laughing. (narrator) when romantic comedies did finally grapple with some of the issues raised by feminism, they presented the new woman with the same old choices. (james brooks) i knew that i didn't want to do a picture that could be in any way a feminist picture. "see her as she really is" that would have been the trailer, i guess. hey, we're going to cap's bar on 17th and vermont. connecticut's clear on sunday, so... (james brooks) there was great effort given to presenting what i hope was
7:40 pm
a new kind of heroine. we should bypass thomas circle that way. if you don't go over 40, we should catch green lights. (molly haskell) "broadcast news" makes an interesting parallel with "his girl friday" because it's about a tv newsroom as opposed to a news newsroom, and a woman torn between 2 men. holly hunter, though, for one thing is, is the boss in a sense, she's the producer, whereas william hurt is the pretty-boy anchor. if i can pick your brain... i, i can't help you, sorry, i'm not here to teach remedial reporting. and it has nothing to do with the fact that i left your room instead of staying there? (molly haskell) the characters now are much more neurotic, and all three of them are anxiety-ridden, i mean, they're not smooth and confident. and holly hunter is a mess... i mean, she cries every five minutes. the first time she cries, you have no idea why; the second time, you might have some vague idea;
7:41 pm
and the third time, you realize that this is part of her. and i always thought that spoke volumes. the core sexy scene in "broadcast news" is where she's leading him through the libyan crisis, and there's so much at stake, because it is live. the name of the u.s. commander is nathan benchley. nathan benchley is at the pentagon. (holly hunter) that's great, that's great. (william hurt) it must have been tougher shooting down the mig-21. (holly hunter) what's confrontation like? (william hurt) what's a real dogfight like? it's getting into work as sex, right with this shot here. (holly hunter) that's good. (james brooks) we worked forever on the sound. (james brooks) just her finger on that button. just the way these two people made their connection. far apart and electronically. tom's agenda is to get to her, 'cause he's felt the connection between the two of them, and he hasn't questioned it, he's going with it. she's felt the same thing and she's fleeing from it. you're an amazing woman.
7:42 pm
what a feeling having you inside my head. yeah. it was... an unusual place to be. it was indescribable. you knew just when to feed me the next line the second before i needed it. there was like a rhythm we got into, it was like... great sex or... that was my favorite moment in dailies, when her head went back, the chair came forward. she almost falls out, as if she'd just had some pretty good sex. (james brooks) it was always at its core a romantic triangle. i'm going over to aaron's, but maybe i'll hook up with all of you later. how long do you think you'll be? a true romantic triangle does not decide in advance who gets the girl. i mean, there's something in us that wants her to pair up with one of these two men, and is disappointed she didn't. (molly haskell) i think you do feel it's the price a woman pays for being smart. dupont circle, please. don't take the beltway,
7:43 pm
because at this time of day there's gonna be a -- go any way you want. (molly haskell) again, it's that heterosexual romantic ethos. we're so programmed, so conditioned to want that. but new york avenue's faster. (james brooks) two years later, i saw a bit of the picture and it hit me that what the picture was about was three people who had missed their last chance at intimacy. and then i felt more satisfied with the ending than ever. whether we're in a kind of postfeminist stage or backlash stage... or whether patriarchy is reasserting itself, is an interesting question. i will pay you to be at my beck and call. (tom schatz) julia roberts is the first woman to break into the top ten stars in quite a number of years. you're talking twenty-four hours a day...
7:44 pm
it's gonna cost you. oh... yes, of course. all right, here we go. @ give me a ballpark figure, how much? four thousand. six nights at $300 is $1800. you want days, too. two thousand. three thousand. done. holy s---! (garry marshall) she wasn't this downtrodden little damsel the knight came and rescued; women are not like that today. women don't like stories like that. that's what i do, i wait for prince charming, he's gonna save me, that's my whole life here? they don't go for that anymore. ("i get around" playing) (narrator) in the late 1980's and 90's, women writers and directors found more opportunities to say their side of the story. (sperm) come on right down here, kids, here we go! yee ha! (sperm) come on, dig in, kids!
7:45 pm
(narrator) using the truth of their own experience stretching the boundaries of the form, (sperm) oh, oh, oohhhh, baby! (narrator) women revitalized the genre, as they take a humorous look at cherished romantic myths. (narrator) in a tradition where nothing is sacred, one director even began a film where most comedies end: motherhood. i had sort of avoided the whole women thing for a long time, i wanted to work in movies, and not limit myself, i wanted to be doing what the boys were doing. and i sort of was trying to figure out how you stay in the game and all of that and it was only after, you know, having my baby
7:46 pm
that i like said, "what do i want to do?" it's very hard to write a romantic comedy without -- at least it is for me -- without it being personal. you've got to have had some experiences to pull from. he rips off my clothes. (nora ephron) and you have to have had some friends who are willing to tell you some of their experiences, so that you can steal them from them. a faceless guy rips off your clothes. and that's the sex fantasy you've had since you were 12. exactly the same? well, sometimes i vary it a little. which part? what i'm wearing. i made no conscious effort to throw any new thing into the mix to keep romantic comedies alive. i look at my life, or life of women around me, and say, you know, this stinks, here i am, i'm, you know, getting up in the night, i'm feeding a baby,
7:47 pm
i'm by myself and doing this and doing that, what would make me feel good? well, john travolta coming in and dancing around my house would be a nice thing. (singing) (amy heckerling) i'm sure that my fantasies aren't that different. (baby's thoughts) now, that's entertainment. one of the things i've always been interested in is creating female characters that i could relate to, and that female friends of mine could relate to. that funny young lost look... i loved. (susan seidelman) i think taking a genre and twisting it, and by twisting it being able to say something
7:48 pm
about modern romance is very appealing. i know. gary... do you remember your dreams? i never thought about it. they really went for the commercial tonight, don't you think? everyone thought you were great. i think romantic comedies today are more realistic; they have to have characters that a modern audience believes and deal with certain issues that are in contemporary life. when i started out writing "when harry met sally," i thought only that it would be nice to write this little movie that rob had proposed. (nora ephron) two people are friends. they realize that sex would ruin everything and then they have sex and they ruin everything. that was my goal. i don't think that movie redefined anything.
7:49 pm
what we were really trying in "when harry met sally" was to tell women some things about men they didn't know, and men some things about women they didn't know, and that was a very conscious part of our working process. when i worked with rob reiner and andy scheinman on it, they filled my notebook with horrible things -- i'm not saying i didn't know them about men -- but they were sort of my wildest nightmares. you meet someone, you have the safe lunch, you decide you like each other enough to move on to dinner. you go dancing, do the white man's overbite... go back to her place, you have sex; and the minute you're finished, what goes through your mind? "how long do i have to lie here and hold her before i can go home? is thirty seconds enough?" that's what you're thinking? is that true? sure. all men think that. (nora ephron) and then they said to me one day, "now tell us something we don't know about women." what are you saying? that they fake orgasms?
7:50 pm
most women at one time or another have faked it. well, they haven't faked it with me. how do you know? i do think we made a movie that touched on a question of whether men and women can be friends; and more important, was a movie about the difference between men and women. what interested me most in "desperately seeking susan" is that it is a love story between the two women, and that although there's a secondary love story between a man and each of the women, i don't think that's the most interesting part of the movie. gotta light? i don't smoke. (susan seidelman) rosanna arquette very much represents the good girl, housewife. she's mrs. glass.
7:51 pm
(susan seidelman) the madonna character represents her opposite: somebody who does things totally on her own terms, is sexually active, has a devil-may-care attitude. it's about one woman who's desperately seeking the other, but she's really desperately seeking herself. and the relationship between those two women, and the tension between those two women, i think are the core of the whole story. (susan seidelman) rosanna arquette, in imitating susan, in trying to be an imperfect version of susan, by the end of the movie is a better version of herself. we tried obvious devices, like amnesia, mistaken identity borrowed from the old screwball comedies, in order to get at some bigger identity truths. beautiful. $10, all right? hollywood is a pretty conservative institution,
7:52 pm
and i think that, that there are films that explore alternatives to these romantic situations, but i don't really think they come out of hollywood because i think hollywood appeals to this safety net. i think there's a lot of issues that could be dealt with, that have to do with gender, and have to do with sexuality, that i think we're still afraid to touch upon. we're mixed up. we don't know exactly what to fall in love with now. so you're seeing in the 90's all sorts of strange love, older men, younger women, two men fall in love, you're seeing two girls fall in love. it's all over the place in the 90's. we still haven't figured it out. but... soon, maybe by 2000, we'll have the 90's under control. we all go through cycles of believing in love and not believing in love, and beeving in love and not believing in love.
7:53 pm
but always i think we want to believe in love, no matter how cynical we are, we want to believe that in the end, lovers will triumph and walk off into the sunset, even though we know that when they walk into the sunset, they'll probably have a fight over what route to take. (narrator) the rewards for these displays, persuasions and entreaties, however, can certainly be great. (narrator) yet even coupling may not be the ultimate achievement it might seem toe. an animal may have to even more than this, if it's to transcend its mortality. ♪ please tell me why ♪ tell my why ♪ why do fools
7:54 pm
♪ fall in love? ♪
7:55 pm
annenberg media ♪ and: th additional funding from these foundations and dividuals:
7:56 pm
and by: and the annual financial support of: for information about this and other annenberg media programs call 1-800-learner and visit us at
7:57 pm
7:58 pm
7:59 pm
disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only
In Collection
Uploaded by
TV Archive
on 9/26/2012